EuroLeague Week 11 Winners and Losers: Who is best positioned to win the EuroLeague championship?

As we approach the halfway mark of the EuroLeague season, what does the data tell us about who is really the favorite to win the EuroLeague title at this stage of the season?

Real Madrid v FC Bayern Munich - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Real Madrid v FC Bayern Munich - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague / Sonia Canada/GettyImages

Since the EuroLeague adopted its regular season format for the 2016-17 season the number one seed in the regular season has never won the EuroLeague championship. Are there other indicators we can look at to figure out who is in the best possible position to win the 2024 EuroLeague championship?

Real Madrid are the favorites

Let’s be clear on one thing: History aside, Real Madrid are the clear-cut favorites. If you absolutely have to pick a team who will win the EuroLeague championship right now it’s Real Madrid. They have one loss and zero losses in regulation. 

They are first in net rating and defensive rating and tied with Partizan Belgrade for first in offensive rating. Most champions finish in the top-3 in two of these categories historically, no one has ever finished top-2 in all three, let alone first in all three. They are on pace to be the most dominant team in EuroLeague history, by far. They are still in the best possible position to win the EuroLeague championship, mathematically speaking. 

But if we assume tradition continues, the best regular season team will not win the EuroLeague championship. Then who’s on track to take down Los Blancos?

What’s a better indicator of a championship team: Offense or defense?

On an episode of NBA Today a few weeks back, ESPN’s Zach Lowe discussed the shift to elite offenses being a better predictor of a championship contender than elite defense. He added that you usually need to be good at both, but the offense seems to have the upper hand. 

Has EuroLeague followed suit since the start of the 2016-17 season? If yes or no, what does that tell us about who’s in a good spot for the 2024 EuroLeague championship?

Contrary to the age-old maxim of defense wins championships, offense seems to be the driving force for EuroLeague champions more often than not. At least in this era. It is taking after the NBA in this regard. 

The number one-ranked defense based on defensive rating has never won the EuroLeague championship. They have made four consecutive EuroLeague Final Four’s, but never won the championship. Anadolu Efes Istanbul won the 2022 EuroLeague championship with the third-worst defense in Europe. CSKA Moscow’s 2019 championship-winning side was 10th, and Fenerbahce were sixth in 2017. The top two defenses in 2018 — Olympiacos and Panathinaikos — did not even make the Final Four. Crvena Zvezda had the best defense in the league for the 2016-17 season and did not even make the playoffs. 

*Offense matters, the team with the most points wins. That 2022 Efes team was awful defensively but also number one in offensive rating. They were for their 2021 championship as well. Fenerbahce’s 10th-ranked offense for their 2017 championship is the only championship team to have an offense outside of the top-5. As things stand, buy stock in Partizan, Barcelona, and Bologna… and maybe Zvezda if they can figure out how to win on the road. Sell stock in Valencia, Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, and Bayern Munich. 

*Last season was actually an outlier on this front. Partizan had the best offense and missed the Final Four by one game. Baskonia was third and Efes was fourth but they both missed the playoffs. Only one top-four offense last season — Olympiacos, second — made the Final Four. 

What about offense and defense? Is net rating an indicator of winning a championship?

Similar to being the best team in the regular season, the team with the best net rating has never won the EuroLeague championship. This is not a surprise … the two are correlated 100 percent of the time. All of these teams have always made the Final Four but only made the championship game twice. 

The interesting note on net rating is that the top three teams in it have always made the Final Four, with the fourth-best team in net rating missing the Final Four every season except for 2019 which was the only season where the top four teams in net rating all made the Final Four. 

If you look at the net rating numbers for this season, it is easy to see this outcome repeating itself. Real Madrid is in first with an ungodly net rating of plus-17.9, Barcelona is second at plus-6.9, Bologna is third at plus-3.9 and Partizan is fourth at plus-3.1. Partizan is closer to 10th-placed Valencia who has a net rating of plus-0.5 than they are to second-placed Barcelona. 

These figures are slightly misleading since Partizan has been better than their season average since adding Bruno Caboclo, but it is clear that during most seasons three teams stand out towards the top of the standings and there’s a handful of teams competing for the last Final Four spot. The current standings reflect this with nine teams separated by one game from fourth place to 12th place. A top-three net rating is good enough to essentially guarantee a Final Four spot, but anything below that only ranges from good to very good and that doesn’t guarantee anything. 

So, who is best positioned to win the 2024 EuroLeague championship?

To reiterate our earlier point, Real Madrid is the mathematically correct answer here. Yes, the best regular season and net-rating team has never won but Madrid is on another level. Even for just one game, they will be tough to beat. 

But if we had to pick a usurper, it looks like Barcelona, Bologna, or Partizan at this stage. Barcelona and Bologna are second and third in net rating. They are also third and fourth in offensive rating respectively. Partizan is fourth in net rating but tied for first in offensive rating with Real Madrid, a remarkable feat. With the competition's history of offense-first champions, Partizan is best positioned to win the 2024 EuroLeague championship when factoring in the history of the best regular season team never running the table since 2017. 

Now, a lot could change between now and April’s playoffs and the Final Four in May. Partizan, or another team, could have injuries. Kevin Punter has already missed time and the Serbian club has the injury bug already for this season. Additionally, Partizan would currently draw AS Monaco in a playoff series. No one wants to see Mike James in the playoffs, and if that sounds crazy, keep in mind that Monaco had no business making the Final Four last season yet managed to do so. They were 9th in offensive rating, 12th in defensive rating, and 9th in net rating. 

That’s an average ranking of 10th, easily the worst Final Four team ever since the 2016-17 season. No other team has been worse than plus-7.3 for an aggregate ranking but both those teams — Efes in 2022 and Fenerbahce in 2017 — managed to win the championship. 

The EuroLeague is incredibly weird, and trying to quantify who will win the championship at this stage of the season is impossible. We took our best shot here though, and feel confident saying Real Madrid wins the majority of the time, followed by Partizan, Barcelona, Bologna, and then Monaco. Anyone after that doesn’t look like they have a shot, and Monaco’s odds are less than five percent. 

And if you’re upset about our picks here, remember that it’s just math, and this was mainly a fun exercise above all else. Real Madrid is probably going to win it all, but we need to find something else to say on that front for the next five months. This helps shed some light on alternatives fueled by the Final Four format. 

EuroLeague Week 11: Lines of the Week

Even at 37 years old, Marco Belinelli remains one of the best movement shooters in the world. His 27 points on the road to beat Baskonia take the cake here. 

EuroLeague Week 11: Quote of the Week

Not going to bring up anything specific here, but multiple people “reported” Keenan Evans was on the move this week. That didn’t come to fruition and was denied by Zalgiris head coach Kazys Maksvytis in a press conference. 

A reminder that unless it comes from Donatas Urbonas or other BasketNews folks, Emiliano Carchia, or an official team or league announcement it is either untrue or a story being pushed to benefit one side of the transaction - team or player. Ignore it, and enjoy the basketball. 

EuroLeague Week 11: Clip of the Week

Fenerbahce’s mascot has become a recurring side character this season.